EA Cup QF
Date: 7:45 p.m. May 19, 2009
Venue: Regional Sports Centre
Ref: Derek Tomney
The old adage goes that when playing away, if you survive the opening exchanges you will silence the home support. Well that saying was turned on its head in this game. Rovers came flying out of the blocks from the first whistle and the away fans were in great voice. Playing with a very strong wind, the visitors did all the early pressing and Waterford struggled to find their bearings. The Dubliners didn’t convert their early pressure into goals and could even have been behind against the run of play in the eighth minute when the Blues’ joint top-scorer Willie John Kiely closed down a Barry Murphy clearance. The ‘keeper rifled the ball off the advancing Kiely but, as the stadium held its breath, the ball rolled just outside the upright.
The home side grew in confidence as the half progressed but Rovers still exuded an air of menace. On 25 minutes, Ollie Cahill produced a low drive from 25 yards which Michael Devine tipped around the post, and then in the 31st, Darragh Maguire rose highest from a Sean O’ Connor corner but was unable to keep his header down. Both sides were threatening to open the scoring and Waterford came agonizingly close in the 34th minute. Graham Cummins collected the ball on the right with his back to goal, the striker was challenged as he cut inside and the ball broke for John Kearney who drew a sprawling save from Murphy away to his left.
Four minutes later and it was again Rovers turn to come close. Tadhg Purcell flicked Eoin Doyle’s right wing cross across goal and just wide of Devine’s far post. The breakthrough arrived in the 42nd minute and it came for the home side. Alan Carey lofted the ball over the top of the Rovers defence and, with Maguire hesitant; Kiely nicked the ball and raced on into the box before drilling his shot low across Murphy. The home fans were ecstatic but their side’s lead only lasted three minutes. On the stroke of half-time the Hoops were awarded a free-kick on the half-way line. The wind carried Stephen Bradley’s delivery beyond the Waterford defence and the ball fell for Dessie Baker to lash home and level the sides up going into the break.
Rovers began the second-half in the same way they did the first. Immediately on the front foot, they almost went ahead five minutes after the restart. Baker was released down the right and crossed for O’ Connor at the back post, his header struck the underside of the bar and Purcell inexplicably poked over from two yards. It was a massive let-off for the home side and they responded positively.
On 59 minutes Cummins was felled on the edge of the visitors’ box and a free-kick was awarded. John Kearney stepped up and found the far top corner with a beautiful dipping effort. The home crowd erupted again and their team now looked determined to hold their lead. Hoops boss Michael O’ Neill turned to Saturday’s hero from the derby against Bohemians, Gary Twigg on 68th minutes, the prolific striker replacing the ineffective Purcell.
Rovers spent the next 20 minutes desperately trying to break down a resilient Waterford side that, crucially, had something to hold on to. Kenny Browne was a rock at the heart of the Blues’ defence and he and his teammates were outstanding in the final quarter of the game defensively. Rovers failed to fashion another clear chance and after four added minutes the referee confirmed an unlikely but deserved win for Stephen Henderson’s men.
It was Waterford’s eleventh game unbeaten in an amazing run of form in the league and cups. The Suirsiders sit second in the First Division and head to fellow title challengers Sporting Fingal on Friday. Rovers meanwhile will be desperately unhappy to be out of the cup at this stage and this result will go some way to dampening the joyous mood following their late victory over Bohs last time out. In truth they never really looked like winning this game but it took an excellent display from the home team to secure a semi-final place and a memorable win over their oldest rivals.
Waterford United: Michael Devine; Alan Carey, Seamus Long, Kenny Browne, Kevin Murray; Kieran Fitzgerald, Gary Dunphy (Paul McCarthy 88), David Grincell, John Kearney; Willie John Kiely (Kevin Waters 75), Graham Cummins. Subs Not Used: Kevin Burns, Paul Carey, Joe Mulcahy
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Ollie Cahill, Pat Flynn, Darragh Maguire, Aidan Price (Padraig Amond 75); Stephen Rice, Stephen Bradley, Sean O’Connor, Dessie Baker; Eoin Doyle (Greg Cameron 57), Tadhg Purcell (Gary Twigg 68). Subs Not Used: Corie Treacy, Karl Coleman
Referee: D Tomney (Dublin)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: John Kearney. The match-winner never stopped running and breaking up Rovers attacks and capped his performance with an unstoppable free-kick.